Branding 101: What makes a strong brand?

What is a brand?

There's so many definitions and words associated to branding that it seems to have become a mythical creature. It becomes hard to track down what it really means. So before we get into what creates a strong brand, we need to define what it really means.

In the words of the legendary brand master Marty Neumeier, "A brand is a person's gut feeling about a product, service or company."

At first glance even that can seem like an intangible statement. What does a gut feeling mean? It's our customer's instinct or intuition when it comes to what they think is the right choice. As we'll point out later, people have too many decisions to make in too little time. We have to rely on our instincts often times to make a decision or else we'll collect dust while we mull over the millions of different choices. The problem for our customers is they don't completely KNOW if it's good choice even if we lay out every single detail.

Branding helps our customers understand where we belong in their hearts and minds to create that "good gut feeling". A strong brand means our brand identity matches our culture and atmosphere of our business, our customer experience is consistent, we delight our customers into loyal fans and we successfully articulate why we're our customers right type of different.

Let's dive in!

Brand Identity

Brand identity is an important place to start because many people think it's what branding is. The problem with that is you're mistaking the forest for the trees. The entirety of your brand is not your company's logo, website, business cards, colors, typography and other graphical elements. These all make up your Brand Identity. It's a part of your brand, but isn't as big as you would think compared to the other core aspects of a brand.

Think of brand identity as the paint job for your business. It's important for your graphics, business cards, videos and other graphical elements to be consistent with how you want your brand to be perceived. It helps set an expectation of what a customer would experience when working with you.

Mastering brand identity has a lot of benefits tied to it including contributing to a person's "gut feeling" but is not the deciding factor for potential customers to do business with you.

Consistent Customer Experience

The second core aspect of Brand is consistent customer experience.  If you aren't consistent, they'll look negatively at your company. This means your brand's reputation is damaged.

Let's use your products or services as an example. If customers buy a product or service and consistently get what was advertised, your customer's satisfaction will reflect that. On the flip side, if they get a product or service that didn't get the results they initially thought, they become extremely unhappy.

Your employees are in charge of upholding your company's brand as well. An untrained or unhappy employee can wreak havoc on your customer's perception of your business. Developing a way to train and keep your employees happy will in turn help keep your customers happy as well.

Delight

If consistent customer experience is the foundation that helps your customers stay content, then delight is the glue that keeps your customers sticking around. Delight happens when you not only meet expectations but go above and beyond a customers expectations. There are many ways you can do this. It can be as simple as adding a customized letter to a customer's package or as extravagant as rewarding a long time customer with a cruise.

Finding ways to delight your customers means happier customers, more testimonials, more referrals, longer customer relationships and you get the warm feeling you get when you make someone's day. You could even come to the conclusion that we've learned to fall in love with. There's moral, ethical money to be made in being a good person and positively contributing to people's lives. Isn't THAT a cool concept?

Differentiation

To have a strong brand means you have to set yourself apart from the hundreds of thousands of companies who may be doing or trying to do what you do. If we put ourselves in our customer's shoes we have to think about the different steps they have to go through to figure out what product you sell or service you provide is best for them. Now add on all of the possible outcomes they go over in their head and multiply the sum of that by the thousands of companies they may consider searching for. How do they know which one to choose? How do they know which one is THEIR kind of different? What happens when everyone looks the same? This is why it's so important to differentiate yourself from everyone else to make the decision easier for your customers.

There's 3 parts that make up differentiation that we'll lightly touch on. The first important factor to differentiation is finding a need that no one is meeting and creating an industry around that. An alternative is entering a field that has a need but allows you to become the number one in that field.

The second layer to differentiation is finding a cause your company can stand behind and is truly passionate about fighting for. An example is Nike's "Just do it". Their cause is "Anyone can put on the shoes and be something. Just go out and do it." Be True Media's passion is "Be True to Your Brand". If you're a good person, we don't want you to sacrifice that because you think you have to "pressure" people into buying.

The real magic comes from being able to clearly articulate your unique value and passion. This leads us to the third layer to differentiation; telling your story. Why is story telling so important to differentiation? Being clear about your vision, your passion and differences is difficult for a potential customer to logically understand. Storytelling is a way of helping make sense and connecting dots both logically and emotionally. It's when we connect these dots that gives customers that "aha" moment that we're the one's they want to work with.

What next?

In later posts and videos we'll go in depth into each of these core aspects. We'll also go into how video itself helps strengthen nearly every aspect of branding even past brand identity. If you would like to keep up to date, book mark our website and subscribe to our YouTube channel to learn more!

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